Hechikan (丿貫)

Hechikan (also known as Bechikan; dates of birth and death unknown) was a legendary tea ceremony master during the late Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) to the Azuchi-Momoyama period. Various different kanji characters have been used to represent his name, including Hechikan (丿恒), Hechikan (丿観) or Bechikan (別貫). The first character in his name (丿) is a kanji character (pronounced "hetsu" or "hechi"), not katakana representing the sound "no."

Some people believe that Hechikan was born in Sakamoto-ya, in a merchant family in Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto City, while others insist that he was born in Mino Province. According to some people, he was a Doctor Dosan MANASE's niece's husband and learned the art of tea ceremony from Joo TAKENO. He lived an isolated life in Yamashina and was known for his eccentricities. According to "Sawa Shigetsu shu" (a collection of Genpaku Sotan's talks about tea) written by Soan KUSUMI (1640), Hechikan used a giant red-lacquered umbrella about 2.7 meters in diameter to create tea ceremony seats at the Great Kitano Tea Gathering held by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI in 1587, attracting the attention of people. "Sawa Shigetsu shu" goes on to write that Hideyoshi himself enjoyed the surprise and granted Hechikan exemptions from taxes.

It is written in "Genryu Sawa" (Essays about the Tea Ceremony), published by Chikushin YABUNOUCHI during the mid-Edo period, that 'Hechikan preferred the wabi (taste for the simple and quiet) style tea ceremony, held aloof from popular tea ceremony styles, and never owned expensive tea cups, but was always contented with his life' and that 'although Hechikan was eccentric, he knew the essence of wabi, and other celebrated tea ceremony masters enjoyed having tea with him,' indicating that he was trying to develop a unique style of his own without using expensive tea cups that were popular at the time. Soan KUSUMI's "Sawa Shigetsu shu" also mentions that Hechikan was content to live in poverty, using the same kettle to cook rice porridge and to make hot water for tea ceremony. Meanwhile, he enjoyed friendships with celebrated tea ceremony masters and admirers and had an especially close relationship with SEN no Rikyu. However, it is written in "Unpyozasshi" (Ethical Criticism) written by Kien YANAGISAWA in the late-Edo period that he was critical of the style of tea ceremony of his friend, Rikyu, who often catered to popular tastes. Some people believe that when he invited SEN no Rikyu to his home, he made a pitfall in front of his house in order to force him to take a bath and offered him new clothes, but anecdotes like this are mostly unsubstantiated rumors.

Hechikan is believed to have lived in Satsuma Province late in life. Among poems written by Bunshi NANBO, who belonged to the Satsunangaku school (school of Neo-Confucian in Satsuma), there are some that suggest his relationship with Hechikan. He is believed to have died in Satsuma Province and it is reported in "Sangoku Meishozue" (Geography of Southern Kyushu, compiled during the late-Edo period) that there was a burial mound known as 'Hechikan Ishi' (literally, Hechikan's stone) in Nishida-mura, Kagoshima gun.

According to Ryokyu Sosa (also known as Zuiryusai) of the Omotesenke school, Setta (Japanese Traditional Sandals) worn in roji (the garden outside a ceremonial tearoom) were originally designed by Hechikan.

[Original Japanese]